Climate Change is a social justice issue
We need to reduce extreme weather events by acting on climate change and when heatwaves, fires, floods and storms hit, we should work together to help each other recover. Climate change is threatening people’s homes, livelihoods, health, quality of life, employment, and the cost of living. But fossil fuel companies are continuing to profit with the help of subsidies from governments and tax avoidance. We need governments to take effective action on climate change and to support people, communities and community sector organisations to become more resilient to extreme weather and natural disasters. No one should have to suffer extreme heat without escape or have to go to bed freezing cold. While some home owners can afford solar panels and to make their homes more energy efficient, people on low incomes are struggling with electricity bills, going cold in winter and sweltering through summer heatwaves. Government should support people on low incomes, especially renters, to have solar, battery storage and more efficient homes so they can reduce their electricity bills and cope in extreme weather.
Climate change, caused by increasing carbon pollution primarily from burning fossil fuels and land clearing, is one of the most significant issues facing people, communities, economies, and our planet. And although climate change effects all life, the people experiencing disadvantage and poverty are the most vulnerable to its impacts, and to a poorly managed transition to clean energy.
Australia is already experiencing the impacts of higher temperatures, sea level rise and more frequent and/or intense weather events such as heatwaves, bushfire, flooding, and drought. These impacts threatens people’s homes, livelihoods, health, quality of life, employment, as well as increasing risks and burdens for future generations
There will be costs, but if managed well the transition to a cleaner economy is an opportunity to create a more just, equitable and sustainable nation.
Climate change impacts and resilience
Climate change impacts are happening now and it hits people experiencing disadvantage first and hardest, due to fewer protections from the impacts of climate change; and often because of residence in the places affected the most. People with fewer resources have less money, choice, power and social connections to cope, adapt or recover.
ACOSS is working with the community sector to advocate for policies to support people experiencing poverty and disadvantage to better adapt, cope and recover. ACOSS is also working on tools and policies to improve the resilience of community sector organisations so who are in the best position to support vulnerable people and communities.
Support strong action to reduce carbon pollution
Failing to halt climate change will cause greater poverty and inequality in the future. ACOSS therefore supports the global Paris Agreement to limit global temperate increases to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursue a limit of 1.5 degrees (above preindustrial levels). Australia has a responsibility to lead by responding more rapidly than less developed countries, and we are currently not on track to meet this goal. Piecemeal action and delay will increase costs and risks.
Low-income and disadvantaged households pay disproportionately more of their incomes on essential services and have less choice and control to reduce costs. Therefore the transition to deal with climate change must be well managed, inclusive and equitable so people on low incomes or experiencing disadvantage are not left worse off. The energy sector is undergoing significant reform but to date has been poorly managed these households are wearing the brunt, creating energy poverty and inequality.
ACOSS has been active since 2006 as an advocate on behalf of low income and disadvantaged people in development and reform of the national energy market and non-energy market measures.
With currently high energy prices, households and community organisations need all the help they can get to reduce their bills. We’ve provided information on how to get a better retail offer, improve energy efficiency and access concessions.
Working in Collaboration
ACOSS has a history of working with a broad range of organisations and sectors to support the transition to a clean economy, find equitable solutions and ensure that people experiencing poverty and disadvantage benefit.
ACOSS works closely with our National Members and fellow Councils of Social Service on our climate and energy work.
ACOSS is also a founding member of the Australian Climate Roundtable, which brings together key business, union and environment groups to advocate for bipartisan agreement on climate change policy. You can find a copy of our joint principles here.